DeepThink Tank Speakers

Circulation and Ecologies


Race, Systemic Racism, Critical Literacies


Environmental / Food Justice and Communication


Feminisms, Activism, and Community Writing 


Circulation and Ecologies


Laurie Gries (PhD, Syracuse University) is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research is invested in visual rhetoric, circulation studies, research methodologies, and the digital humanities. She is particularly interested in how images circulate, transform, and contribute to collective life and is currently developing digital research methods and data visualization techniques to support such research. You can read about such research in Gries’ Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics, which recently won the 2016 CCCC Research Impact Award and the 2016 CCCC Advancement of Knowledge Award.



Jenny Rice is an Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (WRD) at the University of Kentucky. Her book, Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis, is published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Jenny has published scholarship on topics such as public rhetoric, affect, rhetorical ecologies, and new media writing.





Nathaniel A. Rivers is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Saint Louis University. He earned is Ph.D in Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. His primary area of research and teaching is rhetorical theory and composition, with specializations in technical and professional communication, new media and public rhetoric.
His current research addresses the posthuman’s impact on public rhetorics such as environmentalism and locative media. He is at work on a book project currently titled Geocomposition, which describes and reflects upon a pedagogy of rhetoric and composition designed to explore how writing and rhetoric move and how this movement shapes both rhetorical activity and the locations it inhabits. The primary goal of geocomposition is to write on the move in order to compose the multiple layers of public places. Together with Paul Lynch, he edited Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition (SIUP 2015), which explores the impact of Bruno Latour on rhetoric and composition. His work has appeared in journals such as Rhetoric Society Quarterly, College Composition and Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, College English, enculturation, Kairos, and Journal of Technical Writing and Communication.



Kristen Seas Trader is an assistant professor in the Professional Writing and Publishing program at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she teaches courses in digital writing, technical writing, and rhetorical theory. Her scholarship has primarily focused on the intersection of complex network theory and rhetorical concepts such as enthymeme and identification to further a post-humanist, ecological approach to studying discursive practices. Her work has been published in JAC, Rhetoric Review, and WPA Journal, as well as in Ecology, Writing Theory, and New Media in which she argues for taking up the perspective of epidemiology to understand rhetorical success as matter of social contagion.




Michele Simmons is an associate professor in the English Department and a faculty affiliate with the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability at Miami University. Her research focuses on civic engagement, most recently in urban revitalization, and the methodologies for studying and building sustainable infrastructures for engagement. She teaches community-based writing courses in the undergraduate Professional Writing program as well as Public Rhetoric and Research Methods in the graduate Composition and Rhetoric program. She serves on the advisory board for the Ohio Environmental Council as well as for 17Strong, an initiative of the City of Hamilton City Council to engage residents within their own neighborhoods and to build productive connections across the 17 neighborhoods in Hamilton through a citizen-led micro-grant program.
She is the author of Participation and Power: Civic Discourse in Environmental Policy (SUNY 2007). Her recent book chapter, co-authored with Patricia Sullivan and Kristen Moore, Tracing Uncertainties: Methodologies of a Door Closer (2015), examines how posthuman and ecological methodologies can bring to light spaces for social change in complex, messy research sites in our communities.


John Tinnell is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Colorado Denver. His forthcoming book, Actionable Media (Oxford UP), theorizes a new wave of digital communication emerging in the wake of ubiquitous computing. With Sean Morey, he has co-edited the collection Augmented Reality: Innovative Perspectives across Art, Industry, and Academia (Parlor Press, 2017). His most recent journal articles on digital rhetoric, media theory, and writing pedagogy have appeared in Convergence, Computers and Composition, Computational Culture, and Reflections.




Race, Systemic Racism, Critical Literacies



Steven Alvarez is assistant professor of English and director of the First-Year Writing Program at St. John’s University. He specializes in literacy studies and bilingual education with a focus on Mexican immigrant communities. He teaches courses ranging from autobiographical writing, ethnographic methods, visual rhetoric, and “taco literacy,” a course exploring the foodways of Mexican immigrants in the United States. He recently completed a book manuscript titled Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies (State University of New York Press). The project is an ethnographic study about how English language acquisition and literacy transformed family relations and structured educational ambitions within a specific Spanish-dominant urban immigrant mentoring program in New York City. The program cultivated a sense of community and academic participation closely allied to ethnic identity, encouraging a sense of value for bilingualism as a political tool for—and the everyday reality of—immigrant families. His second book Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning From Bilingual After-School Programs (National Council of Teachers of English) explores two K-12 after-school programs and how to connect educators with communities in meaningful and reciprocal ways. This community literacy research builds on his research in New York City with research in Kentucky and explores the ways teachers can build relationships with emergent bilingual communities outside of school settings.



Dr. April Baker-Bell is a transdisciplinary scholar-activist whose research, teaching, and service make contributions to the fields of Rhetoric and Composition and English Education. The primary goal of her professional work is to provide a pathway to cultural, linguistic, racial, and educational justice for Black students across K-U settings, and by extension, the Black community and other communities of color. In her research, Dr. Baker-Bell strives to present the fields in which she works guidance for rethinking the linguistic and racial deficit theories that underpin and shape our disciplinary discourses, pedagogical practices, and approaches to qualitative inquiry.



Carmen Kynard is associate professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) where she interrogates race and the politics of writing instruction. She has taught high school with the New York City public schools/Coalition of Essential Schools, served as a writing program administrator, and worked as a teacher educator. She has led numerous professional development projects on language, literacy, and learning and has published in Harvard Educational Review, Changing English, College Composition and Communication, College English, Computers and Composition, Reading Research Quarterly, Literacy and Composition Studies and more. Her first book, Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacy Studies won the 2015 James Britton Award and makes Black Freedom a 21st century literacy movement. Her current projects focus on Black female college students’ literacies, Black feminist digital vernaculars, and AfroDigital Humanities learning. Carmen traces her research and teaching at her website, “Education, Liberation, and Black Radical Traditions” (



Eric Darnell Pritchard is an assistant professor of English and 2016-2018 Criticism and Interpretive Theory Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Pritchard’s research focuses on the intersections of race, queerness, sexuality, gender and class with historical and contemporary literacy and rhetorical practices, as well as fashion, beauty, and popular culture. His first book, Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy, will be published in December 2016 by Southern Illinois University Press. He is currently at work on multiple new projects including his next book, “Making Themselves from Scratch: Literacy and Social Change through Black Queer Activist Organizations, 1974-1990,” editing “Sartorial Politics, Intersectionality, and Queer Worldmaking,” a special issue of QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, and work on the biography Nothing Is Impossible: The Life and Work of Patrick Kelly.
In addition to these projects, Pritchard’s writings have also appeared in scholarly and popular venues including Literacy in Composition Studies, Palimpsest, Southern Communication Journal, Public Books,, and The Funambulist: Clothing Politics Issue, with forthcoming work in the International Journal of Fashion Studies. His article “For Colored Kids Who Committed Suicide, Our Outrage Isn’t Enough: Queer Youth of Color, Bullying, and the Discursive Limits of Identity and Safety” (Harvard Educational Review) was awarded in 2014 the inaugural “Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship” from the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). He has also received numerous other awards for his scholarship and service including the Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University a Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and National Endowment for the Humanities, and the A. Philip Randolph Award for Community Activism from the Wisconsin Black Student Union.


Environmental / Food Justice and Communication


Kathryn Burleson’s collaboration with Conscious Alliance began after she met Justin Levy at Warren Wilson College. They shared a passion for service-learning and over the years, grew a transformational intercultural service partnership between the College, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and Conscious Alliance. Kathryn’s commitment to working at the intersection of culture and food security grew, as did her appreciation for Conscious Alliance. After 12 years as a professor, she joined the Conscious Alliance team full time in June 2016 to follow her passion for social justice, and put her research and writing skills into more direct action. As Program Director, Kathryn’s focus is on every stage of program development, from generating ideas, grant writing and program execution, to evaluation and writing reports. She will also continue to lead groups of intercultural learners to Pine Ridge (including from Warren Wilson College). In 2015 she published a chapter, “Practicing lifelong learning and global citizenship on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation” which appears in the book Putting the Local in Global Education and she wrote a guidebook for intercultural service ( Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Appalachian State University, Master of Arts in Psychology from Humboldt State University, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.



Laurie Grobman is a Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State Berks. Laurie’s teaching, research, and service centers on community writing, multicultural education, and social and racial justice. Primary among this work is the facilitation of community-based undergraduate research projects to (re)write local histories of marginalized ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and cultural communities in Berks County and the city of Reading in Pennsylvania. Laurie has published several articles on community writing in journals such as College English, College Composition and Communication, Community Literacy Journal, Reflections, and Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education. Her most recent co-edited collections are Service Learning and Literary Studies in English (MLA 2015) and Pedagogies of Public Memory: Teaching Writing and Rhetoric at Museums, Archives, and Memorials (Routledge 2015). Laurie was the 2014 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year.
For nearly two years, Laurie has been co-facilitating a multi-course and multi-partner community-engaged project to develop a community park and revitalize a segment of an urban trail in Northwest Reading. Brand new to environmental rhetoric, Laurie is guided in these physical and metaphorical spaces by Gloria Anzaldúa’s imaginary geography and the “nepantla perspective, a view from the cracks.” Reading, located about 60 miles NW of Philadelphia, was the seventh poorest city in the US among cities with residents over 65,000 in 2013; it ranked #1 in 2011. The population is 62% Hispanic/Latino; 9% African American, and 26% white (2013 census). In both process and outcome, the project combines several realms of inquiry: environmental rhetoric, environmental racism, cross-cultural communication, community-building, capacity-focused community development, civic agriculture, urban studies, and landscape architecture.


Justin Levy began with Conscious Alliance in 2004 after a transformative experience working with youth on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He quickly broadened the organization’s scope by engaging young people through service-learning. Over the last decade, Justin’s role with Conscious Alliance has evolved and grown. As Executive Director, he first strengthened partnerships with talented artists across the nation and in the music industry. Through deepening these connections, the “Art that Feeds” food drives became more prominent at major concerts and events across the country. Recently, Justin’s vision has led to powerful new partnerships with many natural food companies and other nonprofits, which have expanded the impact of Conscious Alliance. The organization now provides nutrition and exercise education as well as workshops that connect Native American youth with their culture. Justin received his degree in Service-Learning Program Development at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, where he was the recipient of the leadership and service awards.


Donnie Johnson Sackey (PhD, Michigan State University) is an assistant professor of English at Wayne State University. He is a senior researcher with Detroit Integrated Vision for Environmental Research through Science and Engagement (D•VERSE) and an affiliated researcher in the Writing, Information, and Digital Experience (WIDE) Research Center. He also serves as an executive board member of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. His research centers on the dynamics of environmental public policy deliberation, environmental justice, and environmental cultural history. Sackey is currently a co-investigator on a grant funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to perform risk communication work around the lead and legionella contamination crisis in the municipal water system in Flint, MI. He is also a co-investigator on a grant funded by the Institute for Population Sciences, Health Assessment, Administration, Services, and Economics (INPHAASE), which is a citizen science project that tracks asthma triggers among a cohort of teens living in southeast Michigan.



Stephanie Wade is associate professor and director of writing at Unity College, where she teaching college composition, creative writing, and environmental studies. Her research, which focuses on ecological approaches to literacy, has been published in the Community Literacy Journal. Her most recent community writing projects connect college students and elementary students in school gardens, where they write together and develop ecological community literacies.


Feminisms, Activism, and Community Writing 


Jenn Fishman

Jenn Fishman is Associate Professor of English at Marquette University, where she teaches courses in rhetoric and composition/writing studies and directs the First-Year English Program. Her scholarship includes special issues of CCC Online and PeithoREx 1, and “Performing Writing, Performing Literacy,” which received the Richard C. Braddock Award for Outstanding Article on Writing or the Teaching of Writing. Her grant-supported work includes Kenyon Writes and the Undergraduate Research Impact Project (with Jane Greer and Dominic DelliCarpini). She has served as President of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, Co-Chair of the CCCC Committee on Undergraduate Research, and a proud member of the task force that revised the CCCC Statement on Community-Engaged Projects in Rhetoric and Composition.